Considering historical as well as events of the past year and most shockingly this past week, I believe it behooves all school librarians to collaborate with classroom educators to confront racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter at School Week is being held the first week of Black History Month, February 1-5, 2021. This is an opportune time to co-design curriculum for the unique students in your school.
Black Lives Matter at School
#BLMatSchool is a national coalition of “educators, students, parents, families, community members fighting for racial justice in school!” You can follow them on Twitter or access their website. You can contribute to the network by posting what you’re doing in your school/community to achieve racial justice.
Founded in 2016, #BLMatSchool has designated the first week of February as their week of action. On their website, educators, students, and supporters will find a “starter kit,” 13 principles, “The Demands,” and curriculum resources.
The 13 guiding principles are described on the site. “The Demands” are intended to ensure safety and equity in schools:
- End “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice
- Hire more Black teachers
- Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum
- Fund counselors not cops
Since our education and library professions are predominately White, Black educators, students, families, and administrators need White allies who will work alongside them to achieve these demands. As allies, we must have a mindset that doing this work is not for our Black colleagues and students but is an essential part of our own liberation from White privilege and racial injustice.
To learn more about allyship, please read the “How to Be an Ally” article on the Teaching Tolerance.org website.
The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development has published another helpful set of resources for educators leading discussions with students about politics, civic engagement, and uncertainty.
These articles may be a place to begin your curriculum conversation with your instructional partners, grade-level or disciplinary teams, or at the whole-school level.
Curriculum Resources for Your Consideration from #BLMatSchool
Freedom Reads is a video series designed to help parents and teachers select children’s books through a multicultural, social justice lens at SocialJusticeBooks.org.
They have published lessons for online use from their Second Annual Teach Central America Week and the Civil Rights Teaching website.
The Zinn Education Project (with Rethinking Schools) hosted an online teaching series on Teaching the Black Freedom Struggle.
As librarians and educators, we know that responding to children’s and young adult literature can create a context for exploring deeply personal as well as universal themes. Skilled educators, who listen, ask thought-provoking questions, and display empathy can create the necessary open and safe spaces for these conversations. Combined with the participation of trustworthy peers, students can explore essential truths about our nation’s history and current culture and express their hopes and willingness to work for a just and peaceful future.
On my wiki, I have organized resources to support your curriculum development: https://tinyurl.com/jmBLMatSchool
- Virtual Book Discussions and Programming
2. Downloadable Book Head Heart Literature Circle Discussion Guide (adapted from Beers and Probst, 2017).
3. Links to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Books and Resources
In addition, the American Library Association offers Black History Month Graphics, including bookmarks and posters with messages and quotes to frame your curriculum.
School librarians can be leaders when we create spaces for students and educators to engage in difficult conversations. I hope you and one or more of your colleagues will make time to design a thoughtful, respectful, and unifying curriculum to involve students in taking action during Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action. I also hope you will share your work on their website.
Wage justice. Wage peace.